The restaurant industry can be tough to enter but it can also be thrilling – there’s nothing quite like opening the doors to your own place and welcoming in paying guests who wax lyrical about your chicken parmigiana.
While it’s a sad fact some eateries won’t make it past the first year, there are many more that become well-established names.
So how do you stack the odds in your favour and boost your chance of success?
The answer lies in a well-crafted and well-executed online marketing plan. Here we look at how you can create your own marketing strategy to successfully attract paying diners who return time and time again and help build your brand.
What is an online marketing strategy?
You could have the best restaurant in Australia but if no-one knows you exist, you soon go out of business. Marketing is essentially the process of making sure you’re known. It helps you build a relationship with your customers, establish a brand and get your name out there.
While traditional marketing still has its place, an online marketing plan gives you the competitive edge you need without breaking the bank – particularly important if you’re just starting out and budgets are tight. Plus, the world has gone largely digital so if you’re not marketing online, you’re really missing a trick.
An online marketing strategy is a set of actions you carry out online to reach your defined business goals. It generally focuses on one of three areas – customer acquisition, customer retention and target conversion. Also consider:
Objective – what is the main aim of your strategy? Is it simply to build brand awareness or do you specifically want to acquire XXX new customers?
Value proposition – what do you intend to offer or promote to make your restaurant attractive to customers?
Target audience – who do you want to reach? Millennials or baby boomers who want a more refined dining experience? Vegetarians and vegans or young families with kids who prefer healthy eating?
Clear message – be clear about the point of your strategy, and this messaging should carry through all marketing activities.
Once you decide on the above, build out your plan, deciding which platforms or technology to use, how often to post or send emails, and what type of content to include – newsletters, email campaigns, special offers, videos, posts, reels, tweets etc.
If you perform those actions consistently in front of the right people, you’ll increase revenue and improve the relationship with your target audience.
Five effective methods to include in your strategy
Social media marketing
Everyone who’s anyone is on social media these days and consumers are swayed by what they see, so it’s sensible to jump on board if you haven’t already. In fact, 74.7% of Australians use Facebook, so it’s a no-brainer when it comes to reaching customers.
Don’t adopt every social media platform – Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat and TikTok – just the ones where you’re most likely to find your target audience. Then apply your message consistently across the different sites and post relevant content.
Email marketing should absolutely be part of any specific campaign as well as your overall strategy. It’s an extremely cost-effective way of reaching your audience with the exact information you want them to have. Better still, email marketing software enables you to send bulk emails that look personalised for the individual customer.
There’s huge potential to reach out to your existing customers, cementing your reputation, by giving them special deals and exclusive offers.
Customer loyalty schemes
Loyalty schemes lock in customers and keep them coming back, for example, ‘buy five coffees get a sixth one free’ or an exclusive discount for those who sign up. Building a loyalty program can turn your customers into your biggest fans, making them feel looked after and showing you care. And it lets you collect valuable data on regular clients. Then use that data to further hone any marketing campaigns and offers, sending them exactly what they want to receive.
Square For Restaurants
All-in-one restaurant POS system
Local SEO focus
Having a first-class website is important for a food business but to get you to the top of Google when customers search for your type of restaurant, make sure your SEO is on point too. SEO stands for search engine optimisation: using key words and phrases on your website so that when people search online, up pops your restaurant on page one. If you’re familiar with the back end of your website, you can do it yourself. If not, an SEO specialist can help you out.
Making sure you’re optimised for terms like ‘Italian restaurants near me’, for example, ensures your restaurant is the local hotspot to visit.
Use influencer marketing
Influencers are people with large followings on social media and established credibility who promote your restaurant for a fee. Provided their audience is also your target audience, they can be a great way to reach new customers relatively authentically. Invite them to eat at your restaurant for free in exchange for a post about your establishment. If it works out well, create an influencer contract where they receive a fee or a certain number of free meals for regular posts.
Measuring your marketing success
Having an online marketing strategy is useless if you don’t know how it’s performing, but it’s actually easier to track digital changes than it is to figure out how successful a leafleting drop has been.
There are various metrics you can use to determine if your strategy is working:
*Increased sales of promoted items
*Overall website traffic
*Traffic by source
*Number of new visitors compared to returning visitors
*Increase in followers on social media platforms
*Sessions – the number of times users visit your site
*Session times – the length of time people spend on your site
*Most visited pages
*Click-through rate for email marketing
*Number of customers using a special offer or discount code
Learning to navigate digital marketing can take time but it’s essential if you want to survive in the highly competitive restaurant world. Top-notch customer service and amazing delicacies get you so far, but a well-crafted marketing plan gets you long-term success.